Pure emotion around heritage, craftsmanship and innovation.

All senses
in revolt


The luxury empire that Silvio Denz has built for himself is unique. Fragrances, crystals, art, architecture – and above all wine – have taken a fancy to the entrepreneur. We visited him with his son, Claudio, in the heart of his empire, in the Saint Émilion wine region of southwestern France. It’s an immersion into a world of passion, values and entrepreneurship. Within 24 hours, we experienced and learned how fluently these personalities shape and develop their daily portfolio in a constant generational exchange. Knowledge, wisdom and also a bit of world soul provide the material for a modern family saga.

Shortly before our visit to France, Bilanz published a long article about Silvio Denz and his corporate empire. “Ask Silvio!” is the headline that sums it up perfectly. Because Silvio Denz knows everything about his companies, down to the smallest detail. His luxury empire pragmatically combines real estate with craftsmanship and personal leadership with a strong network. His investments are based on sensible beaurocracy and long-term security criteria. Behind Silvio Denz’s success is a large workload and a long-term mindset that is geared towards several generations. His son Claudio and his wife Florentina also share Silvio’s passion, yet they are free to push their creativity and intuition with their own projects. We accompanied father and son in conversation in the vineyards – quasi emblematic of the emergence of a new vintage.

Silvio Denz gained his first winemaking experience with friends in Spain, out of pure joy. In 1994, he entered the wine trade, the most important step coming in 2005 with the purchase of Château Faugères near Bordeaux, which includes three top-class estates. The project, which was demanding in terms of energy and finances, soon showed success. The Faugères Vineyards comprise 92 hectares of vineyards, slightly elevated on a plateau, yet harmoniously nestled in the lovely landscape of eastern St. Emilion. The unique location and terroir of clay and limestone soils is one of the main reasons for the high quality of his wines, Silvio Denz explains during our tour. Conditions are advantageous, especially in summers like the last one, which saw only a third of the usual rainfall. Thanks to their deep roots, the Merlot grapes nevertheless received enough water and could fully develop. Additional irrigation would not have been possible anyway – such irrigation is not allowed in the Bordeaux region, where grapes are farmed exclusively in a sustainable and natural way.

Great passion and the pursuit of perfection are values that have been cultivated in Faugères for a long time. For example, Château Péby Faugères, the flagship of the winery, is due to the initiative of the previous owner. In 1998, Madame Corinne Guisez decided to separate about eight hectares in the Saint-Emilion appellation to produce a single-varietal, first-class Merlot. The high quality results from the good location and the great age of the vines, which are on average half a century old. The name “Péby Faugères” was chosen by Corinne Guisez in memory of Pierre-Bernard, her late husband. Since 2005, Silvio Denz has continued the dedicated work of the previous owner with great foresight.

But of course Silvio Denz also brings his own ideas to the table, and this applies in particular to the château, the wine cellar and the administration building. In these, every detail is carefully planned, designer pieces from Lalique are everywhere: glasses, vases, carafes, scented candles and furniture. Crystal panels designed by René Lalique in 1920 for the Orient Express adorn the doors – incidentally, they also appear on the label of Château Péby Faugères. The glass manufacturer Lalique has been part of Silvio Denz’s portfolio since 2008: following the successful realignment, he has integrated the company into his empire.

A unique and luxurious ambience is also provided by the carefully selected works of art that can be seen in various rooms of the castle. But the centerpiece is the wine cellar, built by Mario Botta. The “cathédrale du vin” makes a striking and stylish statement in the midst of the vineyards.

Two years after buying Château Faugères, Silvio Denz became active in another well-known wine region. In Tuscany, one of his favorite destinations, he took over, together with Fabio Chiarelotto, the Azienda Montepeloso. Besides the high quality of the wines, he is particularly fascinated by the wildness of the region.

In 2010, “Vignobles Silvio Denz” were expanded with Château Rocheyron, located less than five kilometers from Château Faugères. The 8.5 hectare vineyard is cultivated according to biodynamic principles that respect the rhythm of nature. He runs Château Rocheyron together with the Danish oenologist Peter Sisseck, and the joint exchange and further development of the wines are both a passion and a pleasure for Silvio Denz.

In 2014, Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey offers another acquisition opportunity: unplanned, but nevertheless with all the prerequisites to fit perfectly into the strategic construct. The wines produced here have been classified as Premier Grand Cru Classé since 1855 and are a perfect match for the existing range, plus there are many other synergies. Thus, the 5-star hotel with 13 rooms and the restaurant with two Michelin stars provide a stylish stage for Lalique’s furniture and accessories, while the wines are sold in the hotel’s own wine shop.

Incidentally, the barrels are used in exchange with the Scottish distillery Glennturret. “Maturing in the Sauternes barrels gives the whiskey fruity aromas such as apricot or peach, but also sometimes notes of honey or nuts. Conversely, we also marinate two casks of our Sauternes Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey in those of the Scottish distillery Glennturret each year,” Silvio Denz tells us.

The cooperation with the former sister company of The Glennturret – The Macallan goes back to 2003 – since then Lalique produces decanters for the traditional Scottish brewery. Meanwhile, 50-year-old The Glenturret single malts in Lalique decanters are being auctioned at Sotheby’s for GBP 50,000 of their value, Silvio Denz tells us. “The sale of Glennturret was brought to my attention by a friend in 2019, and in the tender process we finally won the bid. Not because we submitted the highest bid, but because the Edrington parent company of The Macallan and The Glennturret, originally owned by three widows, was enthusiastic about our success stories,” says Silvio Denz. For both in Alsace (with the Villa René Lalique) and in the Sautern region (with Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey), he has successfully established 5-star hotels with gourmet restaurants and revived or continued long-standing traditions economically.

This investment in Scotland was made by Silvio Denz together with Hansjörg Wyss, both in equal shares. Although this structure could lead to a stalemate, Silvio Denz feels comfortable. “We are on friendly terms and wanted to join forces on an equal footing. Operational responsibility and the management of the Board of Directors lie with me.” This equal constellation appeals to Silvio Denz. He chose a similar setup with Michael Pieper at the Château Lafaurie-Peyraguey winery, and most recently with Peter Spuhler at the Hotel Florhof in Zurich.

Claudio Denz is also present in Bordeaux. As always, father and son exchange ideas intensively, but always on equal terms. On this day, Claudio gives his father the latest fragrance line at Maison Noir to test, his opinion is important to him. Claudio joined Lalique’s marketing department at the age of 18, and in the years that followed he developed a variety of fragrances for Lalique and other brands such as Jaguar and Bentley – or even for specific markets such as Japan.

After a few years, his desire to create something new and his own grew. With a head full of ideas and many years of experience at Lalique, he founded the perfume brand Maison Noir together with his business partner David Weber. He finds inspiration for his fragrances in everyday life or on city trips with his wife Florentina, where he is inspired by new people and environments. Constant companions on his forays are spontaneity and enthusiasm.

Silvio Denz (left) and his son Claudio (right)

“Fragrances inspire our senses and fire our imagination. At Maison Noir, we believe that creating great perfumes requires a multidimensional approach.”

These qualities are also noticeable when Claudio initiates us into the art of perfume development. We learn that a perfumer doesn’t sit in front of fragrances when developing a perfume – instead, he first experiments with the fragrance library in his head. Only in a final step does the physical fine-tuning of the fragrance elements take place. The perfume market is also in constant flux, Claudio knows. For example, traditional fragrances such as Chanel N°5 are not always the market leader, as had been assumed – in the prestige segment, for example, Paco Rabanne has been selling much better for five years in a row. “Fragrance perception is changing, brands are changing,” Claudio says. At Maison Noir, they have deliberately chosen the niche where the focus is clearly on fragrance. “We narrate the fragrance and portray it in different ways. Visually, communicatively and olfactorily, we create a three-dimensionality and virtually open the respective doors to surreal spaces for the customer to dive into a world of fragrance,” Claudio tells us. In concrete terms, this means eight fragrances of four scents each (fresh, aromatic, gourmand-sweet and woody-oud), which differ substantially. Two more fragrances that send the senses on journeys will be launched in 2023.

Claudio is aware of the great good fortune that he has had the opportunity to get to know the matter of perfume in Switzerland and that he has also been part of all the other undertakings. The Denz universe is very broad and includes many passion projects, but they do not compare or evaluate them among themselves. Claudio’s passion for wine is not quite as great as his passion for perfume, but his wife is all the more passionate about wine – Florentina is the managing director of the wine trading company Denz Weine. To do so, she quit her job at the software company SAP years ago and trained as a wine expert in numerous courses and on-the-job. As Florentina was unable to attend our visit to Château Faugères in person due to her advanced pregnancy, we had a separate conversation with her afterwards to share her perspective and wine experiences.

Claudio describes the entrepreneurial interaction with his father as an ongoing process. Basically, he said, it is important to divide up the domains and clearly define who is responsible where. The difference in generations sometimes leads to different interests and needs. In order to advance the respective topics, it is better to clearly define the sovereigns, he said. Sometimes, however, it just feels good to be able to hand over the reins, says Claudio.

“Creating wine and perfume have much in common: the senses compose on an organ of aromas, just as the musician virtuously puts together the notes to a song. The muse adds the personal touch.” S.D.

However, Silvo Denz, who was once described by the newspaper Le Figaro as a “seller of emotions”, is keen that the commercial aspect is not forgotten in the face of all this passion. It is important to him that Claudio and Florentina can always feed their family. Claudio also knows from his father that land is a safeguard in any situation. For Claudio’s 18th birthday, he signed over to him his first property in Lucerne, on which Claudio was able to build up his own portfolio. In addition, Silvio wants to leave them something that is on solid footing and won’t be a headache.

His latest project, the acquisition of Fabric Frontline, the traditional silk brand, even fits perfectly into the context historically: Lalique founder Rene Lalique created silk foulards as early as 1914, and Lalique published a first collection on the subject in 2015.

The penultimate new addition to Silvio Denz’s luxury empire is the traditional Zurich hotel Florhof, which he acquired together with Peter Spuhler. The Florhof is also bursting with history. From the 17th century it served as the ancestral home of the influential silk-trading Lavater-Oeri family, and today the building is the last surviving silk farm from that period. This history will be read at the latest in the chronicle of the approximately 600-year-old Florhof, while the silk wallpapers in the rooms can be admired.

The synergies of the Florhof and Fabric Frontline are obvious. Co-branding ideas for hotels or in duty-free areas, gifts up to line extension, candles and foulards: Silvio and Claudio Denz are literally bubbling over with ideas. Everything lies wonderfully on the hand – or better in their hands. The senses are definitely in the mood for more adventures.